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After 14-Game Absence, LaBate Thrilled to be Back

December 13, 2019 - American Hockey League (AHL) - Belleville Senators News Release

For more than a month, Joseph LaBate sat on the sidelines.

And when he would return was unknown. It was the first time the 26-year-old had had to deal with an injury of this magnitude.

It was a 14-game absence to be exact.

"It was really tough," LaBate said. "It was my first time with an injury like that and I didn't really know what to expect at first. There's some good days and some days that were pretty miserable but I'm happy to be feeling better and to be back on the ice with the guys."

After being injured Oct. 27 in Providence, LaBate returned last Friday and grabbed an assist in the process and was back to his typical hard-nosed, forechecking role that he's become known for.

Senators head coach Troy Mann certainly noticed his presence back in the lineup.

"We obviously have the skill and speed up front but you need to balance your forward group with players who play the style that LaBate brings to the table," Mann said. "He's physical, gets on the forecheck and he's willing to block shots not only 5-on-5 but on the penalty kill too. Guys like him are always a piece of the puzzle to make you successful because you can't just run out skill guys and I think those guys, Parker Kelly, Cole Cassels and Andrew Sturtz too, bring a huge balance to our lineup."

For that reason, LaBate was patient in his recovery. He wanted to return to play his style of game without any limitations.

"I took the time that I did to get back to 100 per cent so I can jump back on the ice to do exactly what I need to do for my job and help the team win," LaBate said. "I think I'm playing my best when I am doing that."

With more than 60 per cent of the regular season to play, LaBate, who resigned with Belleville in the offseason, is hoping to knuckle down and send the Sens to its first ever playoff appearance. He has three assists in nine games this year and 16 points (eight goals) in 70 games with the Senators.

"Obviously being out for that extended time is always tough when you can't help the team win but it's great the team went on a bit of a streak there and hopefully we can get back on another one.

"It's just really good to be back."

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